By Kyle Bennett
We all know everyone in the lacrosse community has had Philadelphia weekend circled on their calendars since the Premier Lacrosse League schedule dropped for the season. Brotherly Love, history, and passion are just a few things to describe our fantastic city. Philly is also starting to become synonymous with PLL history as a postseason tour stop staple. The first championship game happened in Philadelphia, the league’s first MVP is from Philadelphia, and now we’re back in Philadelphia with four teams looking to punch their ticket to Championship weekend. Let’s get primed for the Semifinals.
Chaos vs Atlas
Are you part of the 13% of voters who picked Chaos to get through to the semifinals or are you just a big time doubter of the hottest second half team in the Premier Lacrosse League? Chaos come into this game as the more experienced team in this situation as Andy Towers and company have appeared in every semifinal weekend in PLL history.
This Chaos squad is clicking on all cylinders, they get Chris Cloutier back this weekend (revenge game?), and they have the “Us against the World” mentality. With the Chaos defense starting to gel and find its groove, and the offense can score from anywhere on the field, and Max Adler has started to figure out the PLL stripe nuances and has seen significant success as opposed to earlier this season.
Atlas come into the team’s first semifinal appearance in team history and look to keep the parade running to D.C. Led by the MVP frontrunner, Jeff Teat, the Atlas offense has gelled like no other as the season has progressed. They’re able to move the ball around and have fully embraced the “Family Style” moniker that results in damn near every player on the team getting on the scoreboard. The Bulls, under the direction of Coach of the Year candidate Ben Rubeor, have shown they can beat the Chaos defense when the Young Bulls took home a 16-10 win in Minnesota. But as we detailed on the latest episode of the Outside The Box Podcast this week, both teams are VERY different from what they were during that Week 5 matchup.
The keys to this game will be Adler vs Trevor Baptiste at the stripe and friend of the show Jack Rowlett playing lockdown defense on Teat. If Chaos can continue to get the production from Adler at the stripe that keeps possessions close, that will play in the favor of the Chaos offense and allow Jarrod Neumann to creep up and launch some #NeumannNukes from 30 yards out and add another element to the offense for Chaos.
Containing Teat will be key, but Atlas have weapons all over the field that can step up in more ways than one if Rowlett comes with the clamps on the rookie MVP candidate. The Chaos defense will have to be on its Ps and Qs on Sunday morning if they want a shot at punching a ticket to the Nation’s Capital, but it’s tough to not be on board with the underdogs who play with their backs against the wall, and use it as an advantage, every single week.
Whipsnakes vs Waterdogs
The “nightcap” game on Sunday features the two-time defending champion Whipsnakes, returning to the scene of the club’s first title in Philadelphia, taking on the top-seed Waterdogs. The ‘Dogs haven’t played a game since clinching the #1 seed in Albany on August 14. While the layoff sounds daunting for a team who thrives being around one another.
The bye week did help the Waterdogs as #2 overall pick Michael Sowers will make his long-anticipated return from injury this week. The big question about Sowers returning to the lineup for the first time since Week 2 is how he will slot back into an offense that has found its way and has been a fluid scoring machine since Week 4, averaging nearly 14 scores per game.
The Whipsnakes bringing in the most experience, having won the only two titles in league history and having the roster retention rate of not just key players, but entire position groups, is a massive advantage in a postseason scenario. The Whipsnakes offense is crafty and experienced to not crack under pressure and will always, at least attempt, to find a way to win no matter what the scenario is. Whether it’s Matt Rambo, Zed Williams, Jay Carlson, or anyone in between, the Waterdogs defense has a lot of decisions to make with who is going to match up with who.
The big rumor with this game is that goalie Brian Phipps, who came in at halftime during the Whipsnakes win over the Redwoods in the quarterfinals, will be starting in cage for the Whips over Kyle Bernlohr. It’s a ballsy move for Jim Stagnitta to make, but if it pays off, it’ll be celebrated heading into the Championship in Washington, D.C.
Shooters shoot and both teams will be shooting all afternoon. The key matchups will be how each team's wing play off of faceoffs help with possessions for their respective offenses and if Sowers being put back into the Waterdogs lineup will have any effect on the chemistry of the Waterdogs offense.
These games will be thoroughly entertaining and have incredible possibilities for championship matchups. Philly is the place to be this week with Justin Bieber, Jay-Z, and Beyoncé in town for Made In America, but Subaru Park is going to be an absolute rock show Sunday morning and afternoon for the PLL Semifinals. I’ll see you suckers in our backyard!